Lazio: Bizzarri, Scaloni, Diakite, Dias (36’ Biava), Zauri, Lulic, Matuzalem, Cana, Mauri (57’ Hernanes), Kozak (70’ Ledesma), Rocchi.
Rabotnicki: Dimitrievski, Todorovski, Kumbev, Bogdanovic, Lazarevski, Muarem, Velkoski, Vujcic, Micevski, Petkovski, Manevski
Games that are over before they start are usually not entertaining stories, and the return leg of this qualifier felt like nothing but a training session. Reja fielded plenty of reserves that should have had lots to fight for, but yet the game was a slow one where everybody was waiting for the final whistle all through.
After an easy win, scoring nine goals, one would expect the fans to be happy and celebrating. But the by far largest joy for the Lazio supporters this night did not come due to the display of the own lads, but rather because of what was taking place in Rome. Roma, also playing a qualifier for Europa League (and with former Lazio DS Sabattini, as well as former player Ivan De La Pena, as part of the management) got knocked out against Slovan Bratislava, meaning the Italian capital will only have one representative in European competitions this season.
As we at Lazioland.com have been fully focused on Europa League qualification, and soon to come draw for the group stage, the fourth and final part of the Serie A Preview will be presented tomorrow with the final five teams being presented. Check out Lazioland.com for the first three parts...
Pictures : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=442
Lazio Fans Macedonia presente ! : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=444
Man of the match:
Tommaso Rocchi: A great display from the captain. Scored his 98th and 99th goal for Lazio, getting closer to his personal goal, 100.
Flop of the match:
Libor Kozak: The czech striker could never really get involved in the match. Was taken off early by coach Reja.
Hernanes came in and looked like the active player we need him to be. Good passing, always a danger and scored a wonderful goal following some neat play from him and Ledesma.
(The ratings today are provided to you by LazioLand's panel consisting of Eivind Ytreland & Juan Botello)
After the 6-0 beating at Stadio Olimpico a week ago, the main debate around Lazio has been whether Reja was to start the first eleven in order to get in shape for the Chievo game on Sunday (if the players decide to not strike, that is), and where Zarate is to play this season. The latter I will not debate on in this report, as there are numerous other texts published on the matter. Regarding the choice of players however, Reja went for an approach were second string players got playing time. Bizzarri started in goal since Marchetti is ruled out of the first round of the league due to being suspended, Zauri got to start on the left and Diakite replaced Biava in the centre of defence. Playing more of a 4-4-2 gave Lulic the chance on the right, with Mauri out wide on left. Cana and Matuzalem played in the central of defence, and Kozak accompanied Rocchi at the top.
The first half showed, to an almost discouraging effect, that these players and this formation are far from the quality displayed last week. Lulic looked interesting again, Mauri a little lost but still with plenty of creativity and Rocchi showed up as consistent as always. On the downside, Zauri and Scaloni showed we need to be worried about the defence, Dias was subbed after only 36 minutes, Cana still gives room for plenty of questions on why he was brought with such desperation and Lazio lacked in intensity as well as creating dangerous chances. In their home game Rabotnicki actually managed to keep up fairly well in the first half, and the score line at half time showed exactly that. After a strong start against a shaky Lazio defence, Rabotnicki threatened on a couple of occasions early on. It was however after a brilliant run by Mauri in 23’, serving Rocchi who simply could not miss from only a few meters out, that the first goal of the game came. 15 minutes later the home team got one back though, as Lazarevski slotted one home behind Bizzarri.
The second half brought change. Reja decided to step up the quality a bit, and with the substitutions came an improved quality. With only 20 minutes left of the game, and with Lazio still struggling to create pressure against the Macedonians as well as finding a harmony within the team, Hernanes and Ledesma were now both present on the pitch, as Reja clearly wanted to give the most crucial players a few minutes as well. The changes meant goals as Hernanes got the 2-1 goal, with Ledesma involved in the lead up, in 73’ and Rocchi got a second shortly after that as he finished a well weighed cross by Lulic by scoring his second of the evening. The game was won, and Lazio had qualified for Europa League with a 9-1 win on aggregate. Unfortunately the two games never gave the players any true test, and it remains to be seen how good and well prepared the team really is when facing stronger opposition.
Rabotnicki-Lazio 1-3 video link